The Malta Independent 25 September 2018, Tuesday

TMID Editorial: Court summons - A waste of a perfectly good day

Wednesday, 11 July 2018, 11:16 Last update: about 4 months ago

The government may boast about how the numbers look better when it comes to the court backlog, and how the clearance rate has improved, but anyone who is summoned to testify in a case will tell you that the amount of time wasted waiting outside the corridors is ridiculous.

We can speak about this from personal experience.

On Monday, one of our editors was summoned to testify in the case against three youths accused of peddling hate speech after the horrific incident involving police officer Simon Schembri.

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The only reason why we were called to testify (TMI was the only newsroom summoned) was because one of the accused had shared our online report detailing the crash, on Facebook. The link had been accompanied by the now infamous comments which landed the three in hot water.

The editor was summoned at 9am, and was there 15 minutes early, but was only called to testify at 1.15pm. There were at least 15 cases listed in the 9am session in this particular courtroom.

Our editor was obviously not the only person who wasted an entire morning. There were many others there, waiting in the stifling heat, with the wall-mounted fan providing no respite.  

To make matters worse, there is not a single water dispenser to be seen.

When the editor was finally summoned to the witness stand and administered the oath, he was asked to confirm that the article shared by the young woman was indeed an article from The Malta Independent. The title kind of gave it away, but such formalities are still part of everyday life in our courts. So, in essence, our editor wasted over four hours just to state the obvious.

A few weeks back, in a similar case, two of our editors were summoned to testify before a magisterial inquiry. The editors were each asked to present a copy of the daily newspaper, a copy of the Sunday newspaper and a copy of a video interview. Surely, one editor would have been enough. It is already bad enough to keep someone away from the office for an entire afternoon, but two editors?

We feel that part of the blame lies with the prosecution, for summoning witness so unnecessarily. Part of the blame lies with the administration of the courts, with witnesses being summoned at a particular time and only being heard several hours later. There needs to be better time management for these things.

We also feel that for certain unneeded formalities, such as confirming that you were indeed the publisher of a certain report, one should not need to wait for hours to testify in front of a magistrate. Perhaps there could be a court appointed official taking sworn declarations from such witnesses. Perhaps it would also be a good idea for such court appointed experts to come to you, rather than having someone’s work day completely ruined for something that seems so pointless.

Perhaps people should be shown a little more respect, and be kept abreast of the situation, rather than being left sitting on those court benches for the better part of a day without so much as a hint on when their turn will be up.

Oh, and some water dispensers and maybe vending machines would not go amiss either.

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